Stockholm's new prog metal sensation Structural Damage discusses their new album "Distance"
1. Please tell me about what you have been up to since releasing your previous album.
Johannes: We have had a few interesting gigs, most notably together with Leprous and Seventh Wonder. Also, I think that we have had some great creative sessions leading up to some of the songs on this album.
2. How would you like to describe your new excellent album?
Johannes: It is very different from the previous one and focuses entirely on individual songs, long and uncompromised in their arrangements, often with long intros. Things are allowed to take time, in a good way!
3. Can you tell me something specific about each of the songs on the album? (track by track)
Erik: I was working with this song off and on for quite some time - basically since we had finished recording our last album, ”The Edge of Sanity”. It certainly took some time for me personally to get it done when it came down to the riffs and the arrangement in general. Then I had the luxury of Johannes writing the vocal melodies and the lyrics for this one, which certainly brought an entirely new level to the song! I’m really happy with how it turned out!
Johannes: The lyrical theme for this one was inspired by a news report on the radio. It will unfortunately probably stay relevant for a while longer.
Someone to Save
Erik: The inception for this song was basically me getting a chorus pedal (A TC Electronic Corona Chorus) as a gift from my old job when I quit there. I was sitting down with it at home, just noodling around on a few chords when the intro just came to me. Then the song pretty much wrote itself.
The crazy mid-section was written a few weeks later when I got the idea of making a ”reduction”-type riff that went 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then started over again. I got pretty crazy, to say the least…
The lyrics are telling the story of a person who, through helping and caring for someone else finds the strength to save himself from his current state of life.
Markus: It was an old Idea I had that I brought to the band and the started to jam and play over. So even though the main part of the song was something I've had for a while, the inception and birth did not happen until I brought it to the band. After that I started writing melodies and lyrics and bringing it together, and even thought the chords themselves aren't the “darkest” sounding, I always imagined them with somewhat darker lyrics.
The Herculean Tree
Johannes: I really think this is some of the most interesting collection of riffs that Erik has written. I got inspired for writing the melody and lyrics and wanted to do something on the theme of breaking free and taking a chance.
Johannes: This is a bit of an odd-one-out on the album in my point of view, with a little of a 70’s feel. I still think it has its own space on the album, taking it down a bit in the second act and then exploding heavily. In short words, the lyrics are written from the perspective of a spirit of nature, encountering a human child and reflecting upon the human nature.
Hjalmar: I played bass with melodeath band Avenir some years back and wrote the theme of Pyrene, although quite differently arranged, for that band. It was never used, and during a rehearsal I just remembered that melody and started playing it on the piano, slowed down and with new chords added. The band caught on and things happened.
Johannes: The great thing about Pyrene truly is that it is so spontaneously written, all together as a band during a rehearsal. The few times we have tried this format it has always turned out great. I also think that this feel made it to the studio version. What I wanted to do with the lyrics was to create a sentimental, dirty dystopia; a burned-out and corrupted love story.
Hjalmar: Drifting was the last song of the album to take shape and pretty much happened by accident. I wrote the basic structure of the song during a ten-ish minute break while rehearsing, just playing around with a bunch of chords I found interesting. I am not quick when it comes to writing lyrics, but it worked out once I settled on a theme. These lyrics deal with the concept of failing, of going your own way and realizing it is not a good one.
Markus: I wrote some of the lyrics and melodies for the song, and that was very interesting, especially once we got into the studio. I had a melody in my head that I had written, and I couldn't pull it off the way I wanted to, which forced me to re-write it right there, and it actually turned out better than my original idea.
4. What kind of equipment did you use for recording the album? And can you tell me something else about the process?
Erik: I used my Five stringed Fender American Deluxe Precision Bass that has got a Tone Capsule preamp from Darkglass Electronics installed in it for all but one song (Drifting, on which I used my Fretless Woodo Guitar B5X Tiger Maple bass). I then recorded two separate signals - one DI-signal and one that went through my Darkglass Microtubes B7k, which is such a great part of my tone and sound! I used my Macbook Pro with Logic Pro X to record all of my, Markus and Hjalmar’s (electric) guitar and bass tracks.
Johannes: the main tool is my Roland FR-3x, connected to MainStage on my laptop with the bellow as an expression pedal. Through this setup, I record all my synthesizers. For this album, I mainly use Native Instruments excellent software synthesizers and samplers. All the acoustic accordion was recorded with my Bugari Armando Champion, and old pearl with a great acoustic sound.
Markus: I used my GS2 Ebony 7-string Deluxe from Woodo Guitars with the M7 pickup from Lundgren. We recorded the DI signal at Erik’s place and then sent them to Jocke Skog for reamping.
Karl: I used my old trustworthy Yamaha stage custom advantage kit, Tama S.L.P. steel snare, a combination of Meinl and Paiste cymbals and my Tama speed cobra double pedal.
Hjalmar: Windows laptop with Presonus Studio One and a Focusrite Scarlet 2i2. All my electric guitars are recorded clean on my Woodo GS-3 7-string Deluxe with Bare Knuckle Juggernaut pickups and later re-amped by Jocke Skog. Pianos are recorded on my KORG SV-1 as MIDI. As for the sounds, I use Addictive Keys from XLN Audio for piano and Rhodes and Omnisphere from Spectrasonics for strings. All acoustic guitars are recorded on my Mérida Extrema Diana DG-15.
5. Would you say that this is a concept album, and if yes, what is the subject?
Johannes: I would say there is some kind of anti-concept going on. The overall theme is different versions about letting go, moving on or climbing obstacles. This is also through for the distance that we as a band have travelled during the past two years, as well as the distance between this album and the material on the first album. As for the music, the focus is so much on the individual songs, that someone could say it is the opposite of a concept album.
6. Are you also performing with other bands frequently?
Johannes: Every once in a while, but since I am a busy student, I cannot allow anything else to take as much time as Structural Disorder does.
Karl: Not as frequently as Structural Disorder, but I am involved with a few side projects. Side projects such as a “light” prog rock/metal band called Pale Epiphany with Erik.
Hjalmar: I am the singer of alternative rock band To Vibrant Light and occasionally do some solo music (under the name of Imaginary Castles) as well, but Structural Disorder is definitely my main focus.
7. What goal did you have with making your new album?
Karl: Depends on what you mean by goals. One goal with this album is of course to establish ourselves further and creating a buzz, which hopefully will land us some gigs abroad. But you don’t think that types of goals when you are making an album because you are too emerged in the creative process. We didn´t set any specific goals before we started to work on this album in regards to the creative process. The only “goal” I had personally was to make a shorter, more direct feel with this album as oppose to the previous album, but that was the only goal I had when referring to the creative process.
8. How do you feel about the music and the business side of things of today?
Hjalmar: The music business, just as any other business, changes over time and it is important to keep up. If you try to do things the way you always have, the business is gonna go on without you. I am optimistic though; some old ways might not be viable anymore, but there are always new ways to replace them, and I do my best to keep up. For example, I am very excited to see the great things happening in music as a result of crowd funding and the way it promotes diversity in the music scene.
Johannes: The thing that bugs me most is that it seems like people are attending concerts less than before. Or rather, either you perform very well as a main-stream act and sell out full arenas, or you have problems maintaining an audience. Nothing in between. I imagined that the digital era of music would benefit live performers, not the other way around.
9. What bands would you say have a sounds and style that is somewhat close to what you do?
Johannes: there are a few obvious ones to list: Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Pain of Salvation, Frost*, and to a lesser extent Opeth and Tesseract. But really we draw inspiration from very different things in the band, as we all have slightly different preferences within prog-rock and other genres.
Hjalmar: We tend to be quite eclectic in our influences and it also differs a lot depending on who writes the basic idea for a song, but I’ll try to narrow it down. The reminiscence of Haken is quite obvious, as we have Haken-fans in the band and even used their album The Mountain as a mixing reference to our producer. We have also seen reviewers compare our more mellow side to Riverside, and since they are one of my favourite bands, I can’t say I’m unhappy about that! Other examples that shine through in our current music are Devin Townsend, Opeth, Leprous, Tesseract, Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree.
10. What are your influences, both now and while growing up?
Erik: My first and biggest influence when I started playing bass was Iron Maiden and Steve Harris - and I take a lot of inspiration from the way that Harris manages and serves the band and tries to steer it in the best possible way. Nowadays I also get a lot of inspiration from such bands as Haken, Leprous, Circus Maximus, TesseracT… well, the list goes on forever. I try to find inspiration and get influenced by everything from death metal to jazz and sweet pop.
Karl: I was a huge Kiss fan when I was around 10 – 12 years old and they are the reason that I picked up a pair of drumsticks in the first place. Then I started listen to heavier music such as Iron Maiden and Metallica. Some big influences, apart from the “obvious” ones such as Peart, Portnoy, Bruford and Gavin Harrison, are drummers like Jeff Porcaro, David Garibaldi, Steve Gadd and Jason McGerr to name a few.
Hjalmar: My piano influences are many, but to mention a few that has played a role for this album in particular, I would have to say Richard Wright of Pink Floyd and Rick Davies of Supertramp, as well as some jazz players such as Aaron Parks, Hiromi Uehara and Esbjörn Svensson. I also have to mention my good friend Wilhelm Lindqvist who has inspired my composing and play style greatly. When it comes to guitar, I have not been as prominent in the composing as a guitar player, but taking after the likes of Steven Wilson and Piotr Grudzinski, as well as the more aggressive sounds of Karnivool’s Drew Goddard and Mark Hosking.
11. In what way would you say your new album and also you as a musician differs from everything else that is out there?
Johannes: Not to be that guy, but I do not know of anyone using an accordion the way I do, as a lead synth player with a built-in multi effect pedal.
Karl: I agree with Johannes. His way of using the accordion provides with a sound to the band that you don’t hear from other bands. We also have a very open mind to what types of influences that we can bring to the sound without condemning anything beforehand. This means in a lot of ways that we can gather influences that most band in this genre usually don´t.
12. Don't you think that the progressive metal market is over saturated these days compared to, say 10-15 years ago?
Erik: Nah, I think that it has grown exponentially in the same way that the metal, rock and pop market has grown over the last 10 - 15 years. Yes, there are more bands out there - but there are also more people listening. I think that it’s better to see things that way around - otherwise it’s pretty easy to get discouraged by the many (great) progressive metal bands popping up everywhere.
Johannes: Might be something to it. But if so, you only have to strive to make the best music, and be the best performer. There is always room at the top.
13. How much do you rehearse per day or per week?
Erik: We meet and rehearse two times a week and we spent a lot of time aside from that at home practicing, writing and managing stuff.
14. How do you think that music will survive this new "everything for free" world that we seem to be living in?
Erik: Music will always survive - the problem is the fact that the musicians are getting a harder and harder time doing the things that they love and want to do for a living.
Karl: This fairly new climate of the music industry does obviously provide with many challenges, but you also have to remember the positive sides. For example, you have tools today to promote your band in ways that you couldn´t 20 years ago. And this situation also forces musicians and entrepreneurs to think outside the box which already has led to new ways to finance your music, such as crowdfunding to name one thing. So even though it’s challenging to find ways to create music for a living, more and more ways to finance your music is surfacing and I think that the situation for musicians might be very different in just 5-10 years from now.
15. Any other future plans or anything else you wish to add?
Johannes: It would be great to start playing more live with this album, and to reach out to more people! I think this album has more potential to reach a broader public, if nothing else because it is well produced. Even if we don’t make great money, I could think about go touring with it for a while and hopefully share stage with some more of my favorite bands. For now, we have a kickstarter campaign going in order to invest in some cool merchandize and a physical version of Distance. Go support if you like us!
Hjalmar: We are also in the works of making Distance available in a physical version as well, and we are actually running a Kickstarter campaign right now and until May 25th to collect money and allow people around the world to order the album. Hopefully, this platform will help us reach out to our international fans, old and new!